In the keynote address to the CERAWeek 2012 conference in Houston on Tuesday, Helge Lund, president and CEO of Norway-based Statoil, urged the oil and gas industry to embrace a greater sense of responsibility in facing its current and future challenges.
Lund began by citing the enormous potential of shale gas, both in the U.S. and around the world. Combined with new development in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, he argued that "there is every reason to be optimistic about America’s energy future."
But with this potential comes the need for continuing public acceptance of the industry’s activities. Shale gas in particular introduces a new and expanding array of regulatory considerations.
Noting the ever-increasing ability and willingness of the public to challenge governments and industry, Lund acknowledged that much of the public doesn’t "trust our industry and our ability to operate safely" in pursuit of oil and gas. Public reactions and protests are moving faster than ever, in many cases via online social media channels. As if prefacing his comments, another session at CERAWeek earlier that day was interrupted by protesters demanding an end to oil and gas subsidies.
Meeting these challenges requires a proactive approach to corporate transparency, Lund said. As an example, he cited President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he called for clear disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Though many in the industry cheered Obama’s comments on the future of natural gas, Lund also noted, "We have to admit that we probably did not move quickly enough" in response to his call for better fracking disclosure. Though the industry is moving in that direction with the FracFocus initiative, the public nowadays expects more.
Lund also called on industry members to be proactive in response to climate change, and to be mindful of their impact on society, local communities, and the planet. Instead of being perceived as being an industry that fights regulations, oil and gas developers should work to ensure that the right regulations are enacted, and that these efforts must be both public perception and reality.